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PMA & Visual Snow FAQs

(Please note that there are discussion threads on this topic. Most of the comments are on “Part One” of the series. But there are shorter threads on the other Parts, and at the end of this page. Please see the links below.)

This is a quick guide to persistent migraine aura (PMA) and visual snow (VS). It may be helpful for sufferers and their friends, family and work colleagues. On this page you will find links to:

  • Information about what each condition is,
  • Information about how to help or get help,
  • Online support groups for sufferers,
  • Other help websites that may be of interest.

What are PMA and VS?

First of all, they are not always related conditions. Usually someone with VS has it as a symptom of either:

  • Persistent migraine aura (PMA), or
  • Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), or
  • Less commonly optic neuritis caused by multiple sclerosis (MS).

Secondly, someone with any one of these conditions may not necessarily also have VS. But I write about both in one page because:

  • These conditions are commonly linked, and
  • I have both PMA and VS.

Persistent migraine aura is more rightly called persistent aura without infarction, or just persistent aura. It is a complication of migraine where the auras continue without or after head pain. These auras can last longer than normal, or can be permanent. How PMA works is not known. As well as visual snow a number of other visual and non-visual symptoms can be associated with PMA. Not much is known about how to treat PMA. Medical practitioners also disagree on how common PMA is.

Visual snow is the appearance of “seeing the air”, and is known as aeropsia. It is like the static on an analogue TV picture in an area of poor reception. It is usually more noticeable in dim or dark conditions. It is often confused with something called Scheerer’s Phenomenon, which is not related. It can be hard to get a firm diagnosis of visual snow. And it can be hard to get a diagnosis on what the underlying cause is. Not much is known about how to treat VS. Many medical practitioners have not heard of VS, especially in primary care. Many people with VS can get anxious or depressed about it. There is also a statistical link with depersonalisation-derealisation.

PMA and VS are covered more fully in these Saturday Series posts:

There are links to more information at the bottom of parts one and two.

Help with PMA or VS

If you have symptoms of PMA and/or VS and are worried about them you should start by seeing your family doctor. Without a diagnosis either condition can be scary for both sufferers and those around them. Sadly, you may have to expect some time before you get a diagnosis. It is unlikely that if you have VS it is caused by multiple sclerosis (MS). But whatever the cause, your doctor’s diagnosis may give you peace of mind.

If you are a friend, family relation or a work colleague you can help a sufferer. The most important things you can do are:

  • Understand what PMA or VS is,
  • Understand that the sufferer usually can’t control it.

You may be tempted to blame a sufferer who has HPPD. But remember that VS can start a long time after he or she has stopped using hallucinogenic drugs. And even a single one-off experiment with this kind of drug can cause VS. Most of all remember that someone with VS may never have taken any drug at all.

If you are an employer you can educate yourself on what PMA or VS is. For the most part neither PMA nor VS need affect an employee’s work performance. But understanding how VS can cause anxiety for someone with it is important. You need to be aware that VS can sometimes trigger panic attacks or episodes of depersonalisation-derealisation. At these times, the employee may need to withdraw from the work environment for a short time to recover. Someone with PMA may also suffer migraines, in which case please read the Migraine FAQs page. Someone with MS will also have health needs.

By offering flexible working you can help yourself, your company and your employee. VS and PMA (and migraines) themselves in most cases do not need cut productivity or attendance. Asking an employee to work through a panic attack or episode of depersonalisation-derealisation (or migraine) is cruel and could expose you to legal action. And it isn’t necessary.

Online Support Groups

If you, a friend, family member or colleague suffers from PMA or VS you can find online help from these forums. Please note that they may be aimed more for sufferers with especially severe forms. Always read any introductory information the forum moderator provides:

PMA and migraine,

VS (including PMA, HPPD and MS caused VS),

If you know of other online forums, please contact me at nospamporillion@hotmail.co.uk Remove ‘nospam’ first!

Other Websites

These websites may be helpful to UK readers if you cannot work due to the mental health side-effects:

  • Run by a barrister and a writer, this site uses facts gathered under the Freedom of Information Act in the UK. It charges a small yearly fee: http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/
  • The website of Martin Lewis of Channel Five’s It Pays to Watch fame. The site has many money saving tips and loads of forums. Registration and use is free: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/

I am unable for the moment to continue with this website or my planned project to move it to a dedicated site.

32 comments

  1. […] PMA & Visual Snow FAQs […]


  2. I have had VS all my life….no need to go into my symptoms cause if u have it u kno what they are…i do get offended at times when vs is associated with drug use because as i said i have had it all my life…I also getr a little put off wen vs is associated with pma because i cannot for trhe life of me recall have an episode of pma, ever!!! because i have had vs all my life and i do mean all my life it is really not to bothersome…the onlly compaint I have is that i would very much like to know what being in a pitch black room is really like, for we all know the snow is ever present….if there are any studies being done feel free to contact me at…tokooltone2000@yahoo.com or if your a sufferer and would like to chat….


    • Hi,

      I can empathise with the frustration when in darkness. In the year or so now since I started having VS I think I’ve had maybe one fifteen minute period when I haven’t had it. According to other sufferers this can happen, but by no means all have periods with no VS. I’m lucky that so far no one has accused me of having dabbled with drugs, but I have a long history of migraine.

      My PMA & Visual Aura FAQs page (see the tab at the top of any page) has links to support groups as I find them. You may find that researchers contact those.

      Take care.


  3. I am 41 years old and have experienced VS all of my life. It is a great relief to know that this condition has a name. I have tried to explain the “TV fuzz” several times over the years to eye Dr’s and have been put through CT scans and MRI’s, which all came back normal.I also tried to explain this to a Dr when I was in my early 20’s and was told I needed to see a therapist! My 8 year old son recently asked me if I saw the “TV fuzz” and now thanks to this site and others I can give him an explanation and I have a name for this condition so I can talk to his pediatrician Thank you so much.


    • Hi, b

      Thank you for your comment. I am glad that you have found the site helpful. If you haven’t already, you may want to look at the links on the FAQs page. There is an online support group for VS.

      Take care.


  4. Hi,
    I wonder if any one else here identifies the cause/trigger of the their VS with their first migraine? I have had VS for 6 years with no change. I have only had a migraine once when I was 13: before it I had normal vision and when I woke up the next day the major visual disturbances where gone, but I had VS…


    • Hi,

      I certainly had migraine for many years before I first noticed I had VS symptoms. My own started after I withdrew from Epilim (only to find it was suppressing my migraine pain after all!). I can’t comment on whether your own experience is unique or not. If you don’t find anyone replies here, if you haven’t done so already you may want to try the VS support forum I link to from my VS FAQs page.

      Take care.


    • I can identify with this. I had daily debilitating and excruciating migraines when I was 7 – 9 years old. I stopped having any pain, but I’ve had VS ever since.


      • (Hi, Tyler. My apologies in approving your comment, but I’ve had flu).


    • I have the same issue as everyone is describing. I can’t say for sure if this incident in particular has triggered it, but when I was a child, I came down with encephalitis. I recall it causing severe headaches. I also suffer from frequent migranes.


      • (Hi, Paul. My apologies in approving your comment, but I’ve had flu).


    • nothing is conclusive yet bc i’m still doing tests, but my presumed pma and vs started after doing a headstand. after i stood up the heat-haze and static vision was there and the first eye migraines of my life followed directly thereafter…


  5. I’d like to further add that I do not recall when my VS started, it seems like I have had it all my life but I don’t recall ever noticing it prior to the onset of those unexplained headaches. I am now 23 and I find that depending on the amount of sleep I get and nutrition can and does effect my VS.


  6. ive had vs for about 2 years still a little scared but getting better, just wanted to drop a line


    • Hi, Ken,

      Thanks for your comment. Sorry it’s taken a while to approve it, but I’ve had to be offline for a few days.

      It’s just a thought, but do you talk to anyone about your VS? You’ll find a link to a support forum at the bottom of the PMA & Visual Snow FAQs page.

      Take care.


  7. I have more rolling or undulating smokey type effect (in resolution) in my vision against a clear bright blue sky. I also have symmetrical blurry spots on oposite sides of my peripheral vision in both eyes, that bothers me when I am in a white, bright room for instance. If I stare at a spot straight ahead and move my head side to side I can see a left spot then a right spot as I move to either direction, keeping my eyes fixed on a single spot. I have had MRI and complete eye exams and I have perfect vision tests and no apparent problems. I also can periodically see my heartbeat in my vision. Its frustrating.


    • Hi, Ross,

      I’m not sure what your symptoms are, as these aren’t obviously similar to those of visual snow (or acute migraine aura either) that I have come across. But that’s not to rule out either possibility – and I’m a migraine sufferer not a medically trained person. Have you talked to anyone on the forums I link to from my FAQ pages?

      Take care.


    • Hi Ross,

      I understand what you are talking about when you say you can “see your heartbeat in your vision.” I have another name for this – I call it “the earth quake,” in that some times my entire field of vision shakes or pulsates, and the pulsating occurs especially after exercise when my heart rate has been increased for a prolongued period of time.


  8. If anyone has had similar symptoms, please email me: ross3000@charter.net


  9. Hi Im 39 and have visual disturbances for 3 yrs .The onset for me was after a prolonged migraine lasting 3 months ,I was hospitalized twice the second time i was put on a high dose of IV steroids they thought I had temporal arteritis ( I did not) It was after that that I began having afterimages, flashes of light and floaters I also have VS only in situations going from a darkness to light back to darkness again , I see squiggly flashes of light lasting only a few seconds to a minute my eye doctor says its entopic phenomen . If I look thru one eye at a time I do see a shadowdy grid effect . I also have VS if Im outside in the bright sun looking at the sky thru sunglasses . I am getting use to it now, It hasnt gotten worse maybe a little better .It use to give me anxiety I thougt I was loosing my vision and no one could tell me what it was Im glad I found this website..


    • Hi, Dori,

      Thank you for your comment. I am sorry to hear that you too have VS, but am glad if this site has helped reassure you. Have you checked out the links to support groups online?

      Take care.


  10. I am a VS sufferer, my symptoms started in 2004. I’ve had complete eye exams and been told that I had perfect vision. I’m am happy to at least find a name for this thing. At times I find that it’s very hard to deal with, but I do the best that I can. I find that certain medications, and sinus problems may irritate my VS making it unbearable at times. I now see floaters and trails, I would be happy if someone would come up with a drug regime for VS. If there is any new information on VS, and how to treat it please post it, I am willing to try it. I would like to know what it’s like to see clearly.


    • Hi, Tamika,

      Thank you for your comment. I am sorry to hear that you too are suffering from VS. At the time of writing, I have no new information on the condition or treatment. However, I have a link to an active online support group that may have more information: http://thosewithvisualsnow.yuku.com/

      I am in the process of updating the information on this site, starting with the “cannot visualize” section, moving through VS and on to general migraine. This will take me some little time, but you are very welcome to check back at intervals.

      Take care, and I wish you the very best for the future.


  11. I am currently in week 5 of having unrelenting VS. It started after having a reaction to a medicine with pseudo-fed in it. Since then it has never gone away, and I also see trails constantly. Every scan and eye test came back 100% fine which is a relief, but really frustrating. The tinnitus has also been constant. I am just really confused as to where, why, and how this happened. I am also in week 5 of having middle ear infections. I am hoping when my ears clear up the VS and all that comes with it goes away. Although the doctor at Wills Eye insisted that my sinus/ear problems were unrelated. I am still holding out some hope that this will go away. Reading everyone’s stories on here and finding out that I’m not alone is getting me through the day and helping me fight through the depression that is starting to develop. Thanks everyone for sharing.


    • Hi, Corrina,

      I’m sorry to hear that you too have started having VS and tinnitus. Sadly I’m just a fellow sufferer and not medically qualified, but I guess the two logical possibilities are that either (i) your taking Sudafed and the onset of your symptoms are coincidental, or (ii) yours is a rare (or at least undocumented) reaction to one (or more) of the active ingredients. If you are looking for an online support group, you can find one from my FAQ page: https://porillion.wordpress.com/pma-visual-snow-faqs/

      I hope that we all one day get an answer to how to cure or at least treat these symptoms. At least I hope for now that you are comforted by the fact that it is much more common than medicine apparently realises, and is almost always benign.

      Take care.


  12. Hi, I am in week 6 of being off work due to PMA. This is my second attack and it has been more severe than the previous one. I have lost of power and feeling down my right hand side – I couldn’t even feel my teeth (though this is starting to return). I have been extremely tired – sleeping up to 16 hours a day. This time I didn’t have a headache but all of the above. I regularly get flashing coloured lights and floaters. Last time I had CT brain scan and MRI scan which showed nothing. Does anyone else have similar symptoms to me or is there anything I can do to help myself?


    • Hi, Alison,

      I’m sorry to hear that you too are unable to work because of persistent aura. First of all, I should begin by saying I am just a fellow sufferer, and not medically qualified in any way. Secondly, I trust you have sought a diagnosis from your family doctor, and I hope that he or she is considering a referral to a consultant or other appropriate specialist? With migraine it can take a while to find a preventative that offers any relief, and sometimes to find other drugs that offer to relief to acute attacks also. Unfortunately, in my own experience and those I’ve read from others it is often a matter of persistence on the part of the sufferer.

      At the bottom of this page, you’ll find a number of links to online support groups – including one for visual snow and related aura. I hope they may be able to offer support and suggestions:-

      PMA and migraine,

      * http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/migraine/
      * http://forums.healthcentral.com/discussion/migraine/forums?
      * http://www.migrainepage.com/cgi-bin/dcforum/dcboard.cgi

      VS (including PMA, HPPD and MS caused VS),

      * http://thosewithvisualsnow.yuku.com/

      I am also slowly udpating this site, which may take some months yet though.

      Take care.


  13. I am in near tears to discover this website n others similar to this. I truly thought I was alone. I am 21yrs old and was diagnosed with migraine syndrome after many tests. They thought at first that I was going blind to later say that I had Migraine Syndrome. But one thing never made sense. Why did nobody else have the persitent aura like me? And no one,no doctor could tell me. It all started with the onset of Visual Snow and I had no idea what it was,and then it followed with migraines. In the past 4yrs going on 5yrs, I have noticed more symptoms. I have floaters,stange waves in the air,flashing lights in the sides of my eyes,burryness,what seem like shooting stars,one side of my body will go numb from time to time followed by slurred speech,nasea,trouble finding the right word, tiredness,vivid erratic dreams(nightly),feeling like Im dreaming when Im awake,muscle twitches along with tingling sensations through out different parts of my body,headaches(daily),migraines(once a month or so), and I could be forgeting something.I havnt worked since my diagnosis, the VS and headahes make it to hard to fulfill my work goals and dreams.I have had fammly and friends think I was making it up.It almost ruined my relationship my boyfriend of 5yrs.I have nervous breakdowns about twice a years from the VS. I am not sure how to cope with this but Im sure it will get a little easier now knoing that Im not alone. More importantly,that Im not crazy. Please if there is any advice you can give me I would deeply appreciate it,Im too young to be at the end of my rope, I can really use a helping hand. Thank you! 🙂


    • Hi, Rebecca,

      Please be assurred that migraine conditions like ours are not serious in the sense of being fatal or anything like that. However, I share your frustrations and worries – I too cannot work because of migraine and am very scared that my benefits may be reduced in time. More immediately, my partner is very ill and we are in financial difficulties at the moment ourselves. Can I suggest that you start with the VS and migraine forums from the links on the FAQ pages?

      Kind regards.


  14. Im sorry to have taken so long to reply but I honestly appreciate your quick responce. It was hard for me to write that comment, very stressful. Im sure thats why there was so many typos, haha. My prayers are with you and your partner. I pray your partner makes a swift recovery. I too understand greatly on financial difficulties. Money is quite a stressor. I will be sure to try and check the forums and FAQ pages you suggested. Right now things have beeen difficult. I have been getting more “ideas” of whats wrong with me from doctors. One has told me that it might be TMJ disorder, but to find out I need about $800 I dont have. Another thinks it might be Fibermyalgia, which does make sense but I’ve been procrastinating to find out in fear the cost might be too much to handle. So Im at a stand still. My days are a little more painful now than I remember them being but I am grateful for everything at the same time. Im only 22 years old so I have to be 🙂 Thanks again.

    Best Wishes To You And Yours,
    Rebecca


  15. I came across this website by accident,and I have to say for the first time I am relieved. I have been going to the every eye dotor and specialist since january of this year trying to figure out what is going on with me, I was starting to think I was going crazy and was considering seeing a psychiatrist. I started having horrible migranes after a ct scan w/dye. They lasted for 2 weeks,I eventually developed a blackish spot in my field of vision,which eventually faded to gray and is a blind spot,which may have been caused by my blood pressure rocketing and developing hemmorages in my eye. Weeks after that I developed floaters,after that was the static like vision,then was the trails,don’t get those too much.Once or twice I think I experienced derealization. I was in a store,and all of a sudden It felt like I was walking around in a dream. I also get,what someone else has described as seeing their heartbeat in their eyes.I see the flashing lights too,running along the bottom of my vision and peripheral. I have been reading everyones comments and I keep saying, Oh my,I have that and that too!. Sometimes when I go to the doctors and start telling them, I dont say every little thing because I think they will think I am a hypocondriac or nuts. I am going to mention this disorder and see what he says. Thank you all for your stories. I feel sane today!


    • Hi, Barbara,

      I’m glad my site has helped. My apologies for the delay in approving your comment, but my email has been dumping comment notifications in my spam folder – unknown to me. I’ve only now come across it.

      Take care.



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